Failure and Restoration

Key Verse: “When they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.”
—John 21:15

Selected Scriptures:
Luke 22:31-34, 54-62; John 21:15, 17

AS JESUS PREPARED HIS disciples for his imminent death and departure, he knew that Satan would be close at hand, wanting to stumble and discourage his followers. Although he spoke specifically to Peter, Jesus’ words were really applicable to all his disciples, “Behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31,32) Peter, impetuous as always, replied that he was ready to go with Jesus to prison, and even to death.

As admirable as were Peter’s words, Jesus could read his heart, and knew that Peter was weaker in faith than was evidenced by his bold claim. He said to Peter, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.” (vs. 34) As unbelievable as it might have seemed based on Peter’s confessed faith, Jesus’ words proved to be prophetic. Later, during the night, after Jesus had been betrayed and turned over to the elders of Israel, Peter’s test came. “A certain maid beheld him [Peter] as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.”—vss. 56-62

After his death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples on a number of occasions for the primary purpose of rekindling again their faith in him as their Master, and to give them instructions to be at Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost to receive the special blessing of the Holy Spirit. One of these appearances, recorded in John 21, seemed to be directly for Peter’s benefit, as he was now considering going back into the fishing business. After fishing all night and not catching anything, the resurrected Jesus appeared and, as he had done so many times before his death, performed a miracle which produced a net full of fish. He then sat down to eat with the disciples, and turning to Peter, spoke the words contained in the Key Verse. Not coincidently, Jesus repeated the same question ‘lovest thou me?’ two more times. It grieved Peter that he was asked three times about his love for Jesus, but it served as a humbling reminder of his earlier three denials. Jesus did not punish, or even criticize, Peter for his earlier denials. He rather instructed him: “Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15,16) It was only a few weeks later that Peter, his faith restored and filled with the Holy Spirit, boldly preached to thousands of Jews on the Day of Pentecost. See Acts 2:14-40.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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